Underwater Birthday Party

Third graders created these mixed media works based on a narrative I read aloud about an underwater birthday party.

For the background, students experimented with watercolors, creating a gradation from light to dark much like the filtering of light as it travels to the deepest depths of the ocean.

Using colored pencils and sharpies, students imagined a party filled with all kinds of interesting sea creatures. Some of these creatures were imagined, while others were inspired by nautical themed tattoos. Once all of the guests had been drawn, students cut them out and pasted them to their watercolor backgrounds.


African Masks by 3rd


Following our study of Pablo Picasso, third graders looked at how the artist’s work was influenced by African Art. Exaggerated and often geometric facial features can be observed in both this 19th century Fang mask and in Picasso’s famous painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Third graders created a paper template for their ceramic mask, which also emphasized dramatic facial features and symmetry. The template was then traced to a slab of clay, and additional details were added. A glazing technique, similar to wood staining, was used to complete the masks.

Third Grade Self Portraits in “Blue” and “Rose”

Third graders learned about the artist Pablo Picasso, comparing his blue period to his rose period. They then created portraits of themselves in the style of each period, utilizing color and facial expression to convey emotion.

Students began each painting with a rough underpainting. Then they projected photographs of themselves onto the underpaintings and traced the projections with oil pastels. Details were added with the addition of more paint and pastel. Through this process, the underpainting functions as an element of chance; The projection never quite matching up to the underpainting breaks with conventional approaches to portraiture and in many cases emphasizes the artwork’s emotive qualities.

A Visit with Rousseau

Third graders learned about the French painter Henri Rousseau (1844-1910). A self-trained artist, Rousseau is best known for his jungle paintings, created entirely from his imagination. Although Rousseau never traveled to these exotic places, he would visit the botanical gardens in Paris and sketch plants in preparation for his paintings. These whimsical, dream-like works reward the viewer with their lush and layered surfaces. Stylistically speaking, Rousseau’s departure from realism was both unusual for the time and a major influence for artists of the early 20th century.

Third graders created diorama jungle scenes based on Rousseau’s work. They identified the foreground, middle ground, and background in several of the artist’s paintings and focused on creating those spaces within their own work.

Collaborative Cave Painting


Third graders read about cave paintings, some of which date back to 40,000 years ago. We discussed what would have motivated early men and women to venture into these dark and spooky caves and to make images on their walls. We discovered that the creative impulse is not unique to a few, but shared by all mankind.

Early men and women found time to express themselves through the images they made on cave walls, but they were limited in the tools they had available to make these works of art. In the spirit of these images, third graders collected pine needles and made our own paint brushes. We used charcoal, a readily available resource of the era, to emphasis elements of our drawings. Then we painted in the dark, while some students used crank operated flashlights to connect with the idea of working by the light of a fire.  

Aboriginal Dot Painting, Two Ways

Third graders traveled to Australia! The indigenous people of this region invented a style of painting composed of a series of dots. These paintings are derived from “sand drawings,” that date back many centuries. In both media, the imagery is inspired by animals of the region or used to communicate elements of the landscape, much in the same way a map functions.  

Students created animal silhouettes based on those animals native to Australia. These silhouettes are the centerpiece of both works of art seen here: one created with sand and the other with dots applied using Q-tips.  

Narrative Drawings by 3rd Grade


In this assignment, students are read a series of drawing prompts. They respond to each prompt by first drawing in pencil, then tracing their drawings with sharpie, and finally coloring them in with colored pencils.

The original prompt comes from Lindsey Bristow.

Desert Ice Cream Truck

Today you will be drawing a variety of creatures in the desert. Think of the hottest, most humid place you can imagine. In this desert, there is no escape from the heat. One afternoon you’re walking along the road alone, sweating, when you stop….you hear the faint sound of an ice cream truck. You grab several quarters and run to catch up with the truck. When you get to the truck, you see a line of the strangest, most fantastical creatures you could image!

Observational: (present image of classic ice cream truck) Start by drawing the back end of an ice cream truck on the far left side of your page. You should include enough of the truck to see the window in which the ice cream is being served. Try and include as many details on the truck as possible: are there tires? lights? a menu? How does the extreme heat effect certain elements of the vehicle?

Pre-visualization: Think of an animal that has multiple arms. What do they use these arms for? Transportation? To catch prey? Draw this creature as the first person in line. What did they order? How many did they order?

From Memory: Close your eyes and envision a reptile. What comes to mind when you think of a reptile. What color is it? What is the texture of its body? What do its eyes look like? Take a minute to really focus on what this reptile looks like. Now imagine your reptile has been in a terrible accident. One of its arms/legs/both has been amputated. This limb has been replaced with something you could find in a bathroom.

Combined imagination and observation: The heat is starting to get to you- you’ve been waiting in line for what seems like hours and you start to get delirious.

Look around you, grab the closest item to you. Draw this item personified with the features of your oldest family member. What does that family member wear? What are their defining characteristics?

Art from art: You will be drawing yourself as the third person in line. Keep in mind the weather, what are you wearing? Do you carrying anything with you?

Look at both artist examples then chose from one of the following prompts:

Look at the images of Giacometti’s sculptures. What are some defining characteristics of his work? Draw yourself as a Giacometti sculpture.



Look at the images of Keith Haring’s paintings. How does Haring use line to convey movement?  Draw yourself in the same style.


Verbal to visual: Close your eyes and imagine a tumble weed. This particular tumbleweed has travelled (or tumbled) from the other side of the country to get this ice cream truck. During its travels across the country, what has it picked up along the way? Draw your traveling tumbleweed.

Visual to Visual: Look at the person sitting next to you. Draw their nose as the next character in line and then add details from one of the following prompts:

Turn your nose into royalty. How would you know if something or someone was royal? What would they wear? What would they carry with them?


Turn your nose into a wild western bandit. What kind of crime would your bandit commit? How would you know if the bandit was up to no good?

Final Touches: Add 2 warm weather accessories to your line of creatures (sunglasses, umbrella, bathing suit etc.) Then add any additional details you’d like to complete the drawing. Consider: Where are you located in the desert? How is the heat affecting the structures around you? Has the weather changed since you’ve gotten in line?

Once you start to color, add at least two types of pattern to your line of creatures.